Lowe (Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB, 2008) deconstructs her decadeslong battle with bipolar disorder and the drug that brought her sanity—at the cost of her physical health.
Until the day she learned it was slowly destroying her kidney function, lithium was nothing less than the author’s elixir of life, the one thing that could tame the mania that had afflicted an adolescence obsessed with messianic beliefs and the secret location of a tunnel to Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch. Those delusions, in addition to the haunting aftereffects of sexual molestation endured years before, landed Lowe in the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute with a seemingly endless supply of lithium-filled Dixie cups. Initially resistant to medication, she relented and slowly began to recover. “Once it was explained that this was an element in everyone’s body and that I just needed more, the three pink pills in the Dixie cup didn’t seem so bad,” writes the author. Buoyed by lithium’s stabilizing power, the author managed to navigate college and set her sights on a new career as a magazine writer in New York City. With an apartment and an entry-level gig at House & Garden secured, life seemed to be going so well that the idea of tapering off lithium didn’t seem to be far-fetched. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a terrible idea, and Lowe embarked on one of the most self-destructive periods of her life. In analyzing her illness, the author dives deep into not just her personal relationship to lithium, but the experiences of others as well. She chronicles her globe-trotting odyssey of self-discovery to the great salt flats of Bolivia, which contain more than half of the world’s lithium supplies, and beyond. In the end, her often chaotic chronicle operates as an earnest memoir of personal triumph and an illuminating exposé of a type of medication that continues to be a source of great debate.
A moving exploration of mental health and the efficacy of available treatment.